The notorious rapper Eminem took some heat from protesters outside Radio City Music Hall, but inside, his bad boy act reigned supreme.
He marched out of the MTV Video Music Awards as the big winner after singing his signature hit “The Real Slim Shady,” collecting honors for Video of the Year, Best Male Video and sharing Best Rap Video for “Forgot About Dre.” He was nominated for six awards overall.
In the hours leading up to the show, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation protested against MTV, angry at the network’s support of Eminem. The group claims his lyrics promote violence against homosexuals and women. And yet he brought the crowd to its feet with his second song, apparently addressing his critics with the angry rap, “I am whatever you say I am.”
True to form, it was a wild evening with plenty of scantily clad musicians and flying obscenities. The oddest moment came when Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim C. climbed the set as Limp Bizkit accepted the award for Best Rock Video for “Break Things.”
Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst got a kick out of the gesture, saying, “Stage dive dude.” Meanwhile, guitarist Wes Borland praised the stunt. “This guy is rock ’n’ roll,” he said. “He should be getting the award.”
What he did get was arrested after being hustled out of Radio City Music Hall and handcuffed. One of Rage Against the Machine’s bodyguards was also arrested for obstructing justice.
One of the best jokes was unspoken: Napster founder Shawn Fanning appeared on stage in a Metallica T-shirt. The heavy metal band is leading the fight to stop Fanning’s Internet song-sharing service. Fanning joked that he had some help with his wardrobe, “actually a friend of mine shared it with me.”
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich struck back in a pre-taped video in which he raided a dorm room saying “sharing’s only fun when it’s not your stuff.” Proving the fans are not on his side about the issue, Ulrich met a barrage of boos and cat calls at the end of the show when he introduced the final musical act, Blink 182.
Bad Day For the Kids Some of the youngest stars who get a lot of attention from fans walked away empty handed. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were snubbed. Still, Britney will surely be remembered for her nearly sheer bikini top and pants — easily the raciest number of the evening.
If there were an award for the wildest hair, singer Pink would surely take the prize with her spikey, bubble gum-colored styling. Close behind, would have to be singer Macy Gray, sporting a poofed out red afro to accept her award for Best New Artist for her soulful ballad “I Try.”
It was almost “Bye Bye Bye” for ’N Sync who got off to a slow start, eventually picking up half of the six awards they were nominated for; Best Choreography, Best Dance Video and not surprising, Viewer’s Choice Award.
Singer Justin Timberlake was visibly relieved with the band’s first win. “I thought we was gonna walk outta here like Susan Lucci, so I’m glad we won at least one,” he said. “We got a moon man, we got a moon man!”
Aaliyah was also a double winner, with Best Female Video and Best Video From a Film for “Try Again.”
But it was Eminem who claimed the most coveted moon man, for Video of the Year. The award was handed out by a commanding Whitney Houston who received a standing ovation while singing her way to the stage, proving she still has her pipes.
When accepting, Eminem struck back at the army of defamation lawsuits and bashing he’s endured over the past year.
“Every time that like a relative sues me, or every time a critic tries to slam me in the press or whatever, I sell more records. So I really want to thank you people for making my record as big as it is,” he said.
”I’m going to take this [award] home and put it right between my Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera posters.”
Spoofs, Surprises and Peppers Shawn Wayans kicked off the event posing as comedian Chris Rock, last year’s host. He proceeded to insult most of the star-studded audience, and ended up getting pounced on in a mock riot with Britney Spears and boy band lookalikes pummeling him.
Steven Tyler and Dr. Dre handed out the first awards for Best Group Video, to Blink 182 for “All the Small Things,” then a surprised Jennifer Lopez picked up the award for Best Dance Video “Waiting For Tonight.” She was practically speechless about the distinction, saying, “I’m just happy, if I forgot you I’m sorry.”
Veteran rock act the Red Hot Chili Peppers added two more awards to their accolades, including Best Direction in a Video for “Californication,” and the Video Vanguard Award (MTV’s version of a lifetime achievement award).
For a night that celebrated one of the angriest singers in the business, bassist Flea capped off the Chili Peppers acceptance speech with a far less threatening statement. He said he was grateful for everything including the gray hairs in his mohawk and went on to offer a special wish to his daughter, saying “I hope you had a great first day at school.”
ABCNEWS Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.